Hawaii Whale Watching & Hawaii's Humpback Whale Season | Go Hawaii

Whale Watching

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Whale Watching in Hawaii

Just as our idyllic weather welcomes tourists from around the world, the warm and shallow waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for kohola, or humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population return to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race more than 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking just off our shores and delighting spectators from December through May. 

Adult males range from 40 to 52 feet and can weigh up to 45 tons. Despite their size, humpback whales are graceful acrobats. Keep your eye on the ocean and you might see one breach, propelling up to 40 percent of its body out of the water and landing on its side with a spectacular splash.   


Cultural Significance of Whales in Hawaii

Whales have great cultural significance for Native Hawaiians. They play a large role in Hawaiian legend—including one creation story—and appear in ancient petroglyphs on several islands. The return of the kohola (humpback whale) is considered more of a homecoming than a visit. Humpback whales are born in Hawaiian waters, making them kamaaina (native born). Some Native Hawaiians also believe the whales are aumakua (family guardians), so these gentle giants are treated with great respect. 


What's the Best Way to See Whales?

Although humpback whales can be seen from all of the Hawaiian Islands, the shallow Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai and Lanai is one of the best whale-watching destinations in the world. 

You may also spot kohola from the southern shores of Oahu, especially at Makapuu Lighthouse and along the seaside overlooks near Leahi (Diamond Head)

Kauai offers a range of whale-viewing opportunities, including Poipu Beach on the South Shore, Kilauea Lighthouse on the North Shore and Kapaa Overlook on the island’s Coconut Coast.

On the island of Hawaii, whales are often seen along the shores of the Kohala Coast, as well as Hilo Bay on the east side of the island. The Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site is another great viewing spot, with its sweeping, elevated views near Kawaihae Harbor. In fact, Puukohola literally means “hill of the whale” in Hawaiian.

Boat tours may be your best option for viewing whales up close. Hawaii has dozens of tour operators, including a few that lead kayak excursions—a thrilling way to experience these majestic mammals.

In respect for the kohola and the safety of sightseers, all watercraft must stay a minimum of 100 yards from the whales, but you'll be surprised how close you feel when a 45-ton behemoth lunges out of the sea. If a boat tour is not for you, the whales’ impressive acrobatic displays are often visible from miles away. If you're on land, keep a pair of binoculars handy because you never know when you'll see a humpback’s spout (which can be 10–20 feet tall).

Whale Watching in Hawaii

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Royal Kona Resort Aerial
Hawaii
Royal Kona Resort
75-5852 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

This oceanfront Resort offers spacious rooms featuring large lanais with beautiful mountain or ocean views, a private swimming lagoon and sandy beach area, oceanfront pool, and Luau show. Dine at the signature Don the Beachcomber Restaurant and Mai Tai Bar.

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The Cowboy House Bath House (Furo)
Hawaii
The Puakea Ranch
56-2864 Akoni Pule Hwy
Hawi, HI 96719
Summary

Luxury, historic, plantation bungalows available for short and long term vacation rentals on a private ranch in Hawi. Beautiful, vacation homes with private pools and organic gardens in a stunning setting.

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Waikoloa Village, HI - Paniolo Greens, Exterior
Hawaii
Paniolo Greens
68-1745 Waikoloa Road
Waikoloa, HI 96738
Summary

This Big Island resort is minutes from the white sand beaches of the Kohala Coast and Hapuna Park with tons of fun on-sit, including a swimming pool, spa, fitness center, and more. Enjoy the deep blue waters of the Pacific, lush rain-forests, otherworldly lava flows, world-class golf, and shopping.

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Saltwater Lagoon
Hawaii
Hilton Waikoloa Village
69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive
Waikoloa, HI 96738-5710
Summary

A spectacular oceanfront resort on the Island of Hawai'i. Escape to a tropical playground with saltwater lagoon, pools, waterslides and wildlife. 14 restaurants and bars include Legends of Hawai‘i Lu‘au and Kamuela Provision Company. Activities include the Dolphin Quest, tennis, golf and Kohala Spa.

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Kilauea Lodge Restaurant
Hawaii
Kilauea Lodge
19-3948 Old Volcano Road
Volcano, HI 96785
Summary

Historic Lodge near Volcanoes National Park. Romantic rooms & Cottages. Fireplaces. Award-winning restaurant. Gazebo, Hot Tub. Nestled on 10 acres. Conference/private dining room. Breakfast 7:30a-10a, Lunch 10a-2p, Pau Hana (Happy Hour) 2p-5p daily, Dinner nightly 5p-9p & Sunday Brunch 10a-2p.

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Don the Beachcomber Restaurant View
Hawaii
Don The Beachcomber
75-5852 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
Summary

The open-air Don the Beachcomber signature restaurant located at the Royal Kona Resort features a prime oceanfront setting with spectacular sunset views. Choose from succulent Pacific Fusion, Prime Rib and seafood specialties.

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